Special Needs Planning
Legal Services for People with Disabilities & Special Needs in Massachusetts
Under Massachusetts and federal law, people with mental and/or physical disabilities may qualify for many benefits and special programs, ranging from supplemental income to tax exemptions to caregiver support. Unfortunately, however, many disabled persons and their families do not take advantage of the full range of opportunities available to them, often because they have been told they are over-asset and therefore not eligible for assistance.
At Hope Elder Law, we have helped many individuals with special needs and their families maintain or achieve eligibility for need-based public benefits, including Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, by preparing special needs trusts.
What Is a Special Needs Trust?
Very simply, a special needs trust is designed to benefit, or take care of, a person with special needs. Moreover, it is generally the most effective way to maintain or achieve eligibility for need-based public assistance for the benefit of a person with disabilities. There are two types of special needs trusts, a first party, or “self-settled,” special needs trust and a third party, or “supplemental,” special needs trust.
- “Self-Settled” Special Needs Trust – With a self-settled special needs trust, a disabled person puts his or her own money into the trust for his or her own benefit. Under federal law, the trust is exempt from being counted as a resource that could otherwise disqualify a disabled person from obtaining certain public assistance. When the disabled person dies the state is then entitled to be reimbursed out of any money left in the trust for any Medicaid / MassHealth services provided to the disabled person during their lifetime. We have helped many people who have become disabled after an accident set up self-settled trusts to preserve their own funds for current and future needs while accessing need based public benefits to make their own money last longer.
- Third Party “Supplemental” Special Needs Trust – With a third party supplemental special needs trust, someone other than the disabled person puts money into the trust for the benefit of the disabled person. This trust generally allows a disabled child or dependent to remain eligible for public assistance benefits, such as SSI or Medicaid, while also enabling a parent or guardian to manage and fund the trust. One advantage of this type of trust is that the state does not need to be reimbursed out of any remaining trust assets when the disabled person dies so that any money remaining in the trust can go on to other family members if desired. Hope Elder Law has significant experience preparing supplemental needs trusts.
For persons with disabilities and their families, special needs trusts are an integral part of estate planning. We have helped many clients keep assets, including inheritances, gifts, and settlement amounts, without causing ineligibility for or discontinuance of government assistance.
Talk to an Attorney with Experience Handling Special Needs Legal Issues in Massachusetts
Too often people with special needs and their families are unaware of benefits available to them through state and federal government programs, or they were denied a certain benefit because an application was not handled properly. An attorney with specific experience assisting people with disabilities can help ensure that you miss no opportunity or option to obtain public benefits. In Eastern Massachusetts, contact Hope Elder Law to learn more about need-based benefits that may be available to you and your family.